Joe woke up to birds chirping loudly near his window. The Knight groaned as he rolled over on his back and opened his eyes. Sunlight was streaming in through a nearby window, painting intricate shadows on the walls.
And for a split second, he panicked. He had overslept! He was late for the clan meeting, the masters would kill him, the amount of work that he would be forced to make up would be so large and…
And I don’t have to worry about that anymore, Joe thought, truly feeling stupid for freaking out.
Joe and the other Knights of Clan Taldryan were on a vacation on the planet Dubellapperar. They were ordered by Consul Rian Taldrya to get some rest and have some fun after the recent war against the Collective. They arrived about a day and a half ago after Joe had worked himself until he collapsed. Personally, Joe did not really see the need for this vacation and thought it was unnecessary. Did he push too hard in the battle on Nancora? Yeah, probably. Did he need to recover his strength from exerting so much energy? Looking at the nearby chrono and seeing that it was almost time for the mid-day meal, he had to reply in the affirmative. But a week of vacation was not needed.
At first the Knight was thrilled to get a vacation, but reality was settling in. Ondur and Greenfire were not letting him do any work, which meant that the amount of missions that he would have when he got back to Karufr would be staggering. His former master assured him that he would not be given any more work than any of his peers, but still… Sighing, Joe did not know why he was bothering. Kromtal was too focused on his own vacation.
Shrugging it off, the teen got changed and went into the common room of the cottage that the Knights were temporarily staying in. He found his colleagues already up, meditating in the center of the room.
"Good morning, Joe. Or should I say afternoon," Greenfire said with a smile.
Ashamed that he had slept so long, the teen just bowed his head, but he looked up when he felt Ondur ruffle his hair. "Don't fret, Durham. You need to rest to get your strength back to normal levels. Besides, we are on vacation. Everyone needs a little self leisure sometimes, even Jedi?"
“Spoken like a true Sith.” Said Greenfire sarcastically from across the room.
Joe did not know how to respond to that so he just stayed silent and hoped that Ondur would give it a break. He did. "Come on. Help me make the mid-day meal." Said Ondur.
Joe just smiled and obliged. Working as a team, the two prepared a meal, which they then ate and cleaned up.
But while they were finishing cleaning up the dishes, Joe felt himself start to drag. This was just ridiculous! He slept for more than twelve hours last night. How in the galaxy could he still be tired?
Refusing to accept or admit his exhaustion, the teen readily accepted when Greenfire suggested a walk. The elder of the three led the way through some of the winding paths that covered the entire planet.
While Greenfire was definitely much more fond of nature, Joe found that he was actually enjoying himself. He was enthralled by the woods as he walked along the dirt-covered path, hearing the birds, watching for small forest creatures and looking at the splotches of sun peaking through the canopy. It felt nice to be outside, simply relaxing, something that the Knight had not done lately.
The Taldryan Knights walked through the forest quietly, never speaking. But, as uncomfortable as that sounded, Joe reflected that it was actually quite relaxing to not talk. For a long time, he had spent so much time figuring out ways to avoid telling the truth that is was nice to soak up the silence without having to worry about an impending interrogation.
After about an hour, Ondur broke the silence to suggest a break, which the others agreed to wholeheartedly. Joe had been getting increasingly exhausted as the day went on and his thoughts had been drifting towards a few minutes rest. Sitting on a rock, Joe tried to relax as Greenfire took a sip of water from the canteen he had brought. Soon he passed the canteen to his colleague, which the younger took and drank from before handing it to Ondur and sliding off the rock to the ground. Ondur sat next to him before wrapping an arm around the thin shoulders of his friend. Joe gave Ondur a confused look as his fellow Clan member pulled him closer. But Ondur just smiled and pulled him back down.
"Relax, brother. We are supposed to be on vacation, you know."
Joe did lose a little bit of tension at that. He had just been so stressed lately that it was almost like he had forgotten to relax.
"Then I guess that we will just have to re-teach you, hmmm?" Spoke Greenfire.
Joe jumped at the sound of his friend's voice. Of course he’d know what I was thinking. Joe thought.
"Your mental barrier has been in and out since you collapsed on Karufr. I would have mentioned it sooner, but I did not want you to worry about it as you recovered. You should focus on that." Greenfire explained.
Joe did not know how to respond to that. His first instinct was to slam up the tightest, strongest barrier he could muster, but he didn't. Part of the reason that he was here was because he did not trust his brothers and sisters in Taldryan with his problems. He needed to learn that he was part of a Brotherhood and with that came the necessity of sharing problems. Since he had been promoted and had left his master he felt alone especially during the fight in Nancora. He needed to realize that he wasn’t. There were definite downsides to that, including the privacy; but he was starting to see the benefits of it. The Knight was realizing that the biggest benefit was having people who truly cared for him. That was a wonderful gift and the least he could do was trust those who gave it to him. So the boy just stayed silent, fighting against his instincts that screamed to throw up the mental barrier.
"Thank you, Brother. We know that it is not an easy thing to trust someone. Thank you for having faith in us and not putting your barrier up." Spoke Greenfire to which Ondur nodded. Joe gave a gentle smile as he fully melted against his fellow brothers.
After a few minutes, Joe suggested that they start heading back. The others instantly agreed. He had already started the day somewhat tired and the long walk had drained his remaining energy. All of this culminated to the feeling that it was time to go back. Unfortunately, that walk would be grueling on his tired body. Standing up and brushing off the leaves and dirt, the Knight led his body back towards the cabin.
About halfway back Joe got really, really tired all of a sudden. He quietly asked if they could take a break. Both Ondur and Greenfire gave him a concerned look, but said nothing as they led him to a nearby tree, handing him the canteen in the process. The teen took the container, taking long sips before completely sagging against the tree and shutting his eyes. He heard movement as his the others sat down next to him. Once he had finished the water, the younger tried to regroup his energy so that he could finish the rest of the walk. However, his efforts were soon interrupted.
"Are you okay, Joe?" Greenfire asked
"Yes, just a little tired” Joe responded.
"The truth, brother." Ondur said
"Okay. I used the Force more than I’m used to on Nancora but I’m fine just a little tired." Joe reassured.
"Are you sure?" Greenfire questioned
"Yes, Brother. I am just tired. But…I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise.” Joe said.
"What you did on Nancora, that wasn’t normal for a Knight to wield the Force like that.” Ondur responded.
"I know, but…"
"You can't fully control your power yet can you?” Ondur questioned.
Ashamed, Joe shook his bowed head.
"That is okay, Joe. It will take time. But the masters will get you to the point where your body can handle the stress of wielding such pure Force energy." Greenfire assured Joe.
Not knowing what to say, Joe just nodded. They let that fact sit between them, while Joe discreetly recover enough strength.
After about ten minutes, Joe had re-gathered enough strength to walk for at least another twenty minutes. The Knight started to rise, ready to keep going…but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
"Relax, Brother." Ondur said.
"Shouldn't we go, Brother? It will start getting dark eventually" Joe asked.
"We have time. And I think that there is one more thing to discuss." Greenfire said.
"What is that?" Joe questioned.
"Limits." Ondur answered.
"What?" Asked Joe.
"Personal limits. And your refusal to accept yours." Ondur continued.
"I don’t...” Joe began.
"Let me finish. Now you have failed to accept your limits in the past, because you have felt a compelling need to be the Perfect Knight. Now I understand this need. I even accept your old master’s part in that need," Greenfire continued, holding a hand up to cut off any protests. "Yes. My initial rejection of you was because of the role that you set up for yourself. But now we will break that. And one way to start that process is to accept that you have limits. And these limits are normal for a newly appointment Knight and an 18-year old boy. Now do you understand what I am talking about?" Ondur asked.
"I think so.” Joe responded.
"Good. So, question for you. Do you honestly believe that you are strong enough to walk back?" Greenfire asked.
Joe stopped for a moment. Once again there was a part of him that needed to answer in the affirmative. But he hesitated. For so long he had given into that part of him because he thought that it was the only way to become more powerful. But now his peers were telling him that this was not the case. So maybe he should tell the truth. "I don't know, Brother. I feel stronger but…I don't know. It is a long way back…" Joe said honestly.
"I am proud of you, Joe. Admitting that was one step in accepting your limitations. And that will greatly benefit you and your health. I know that was not easy for you, but if you keep doing that then it will get easier. So, why don't we start back and if you start to feel tired, just let me know. Okay?" Ondur said.
"Okay” Joe agreed.
"And, remember. we are not going to judge you. We want to help you, while accepting who you are. Limitations and all." Greenfire pointed out.
"I think that I am starting to believe that." Joe said.
"That is good. Now shall we?" With a nod from the younger, the three Knights arose and started the walk back.
As expected, Joe had enough strength to walk for about twenty minutes, at which point his steps started to slow and he found it harder to keep moving. Remembering his friends’ request, Joe voiced this to them. As expected, they sat down on a large rock and handed him the canteen.
"Brothers? Why am I still so tired? I rested a lot and all I have done today is walk with you."
"Your body is still recovering. Just give it time." Said Ondur.
They let Joe rest for about ten minutes before asking him how he was feeling.
"Tired.” was the offered response.
"Then you should sleep." Greenfire offered.
"But…we are not back to the cabin yet!" Joe exclaimed.
"I am aware of that. But we are not too far and we can carry you the rest of the way." Said Greenfire.
"No! You can't do that!" Joe said.
"Why not? It is not like anyone will see us, so your pride will remain intact. And you need to rest. Pushing yourself will only make it worse.” Responded Ondur.
"But…Because… you should not have to do that." Protested Joe.
"First of all, we don't have to. we want to. And second, the only thing that has stopped your necessary rest is your own hesitation. So what is causing that?" Questioned Ondur.
"…I… don't know." Mumbled Joe.
"Would you like some insight?" Asked Greenfire.
Joe nodded. "It is because you are still trying to live perfectly." Said Greenfire.
It seemed that the Jedi was going to continue, but stopped when he felt a spike of despair coming from their bond. Joe knew that they had felt his emotional pain but could not do anything to stop it. Instead, he just bowed his head, trying to ignore the knights now kneeling in front of him.
"Joe? Brother? What is wrong?" Asked a concerned Ondur.
The teen shook his head. He just did not want to talk about it. All he wanted was to go back to the cabin and crawl into bed forever. He did not want to focus on his many, many failures. It seemed that whenever he tried to be perfect, he failed miserably.
"Brother? Please answer me." Ondur pleaded.
Joe once again refused with a furious shake of his head. He expected another concerned request, but instead he felt strong arms surround his thin frame. Needing the comfort, Joe buried his head in his friends’ tunics trying to regain control.
After a moment, he felt them shift and soon he got the sense that they were walking back to the cabin. But at this point, Joe did not care, just keeping his face buried in his colleagues’ chest. Soon his thoughts started to loop around all of the ways that he had failed his Clan. And himself. The failure was overwhelming and soon he could not hold back the tears running down his cheeks. He was sure that Ondur felt the wetness seeping through his clothes, but he never said anything.
Later he heard the door to the cabin open and felt Greenfire cross the threshold. Even though he could not see anything from his current position, he knew that Ondur was taking him to his room. He was proven correct when his friend gently placed him into his bed. The Sith immediately sat down next to him and spoke gently.
"It is okay, buddy.” Said Ondur.
"No," Joe replied, trying not to choke on the tears. "It is not okay." He continued.
"Why? Why isn't it alright?" Questioned Greenfire coming into the room with three cups of tea.
"BECAUSE IM A FAILURE!” Joe shouted taking cup of tea and throwing it across the room.
“If I had been stronger I could have saved so many of our comrades from dying on Nancora!”He continued.
“That’s why I run myself into the ground training to become the strongest in the Clan.” Joe finished, collapsing onto the bed feeling defeated.
"Never! Joe Durham you are NOT a failure. And I don't believe that you ever will be. You are an exceptional Knight of Clan Taldryan and you tried your best to do everything that you could on Nancora and it nearly killed you. You will never be a failure as long as you try your hardest." Stated Ondur.
"But you had to carry me!" Joe responded.
"So? Joe everyone falls from time to time. And when that happens it is the Clan’s job to catch you. Being successful has nothing to do with being perfect. You will always be successful as long as you try. Being perfect just means that you are a droid. And, personally, I don't want a droid for a friend. I want my kind, passionate, and hard-working IMPERFECT friend that I have m. I want YOU. No matter how many mistakes you make, no matter how weak you are, I want you." Stated Greenfire.
"But why? Why don't you want a friend who is better than me? You could have any friend. Why not pick a good one?" Asked Joe.
"You are a good friend, Joe. No one could compare." Greenfire continued.
That made Joe think. Why would Taldryan want him? If he could not be perfect, then why would his friends want him. He was nobody.
"You are special, Joe, you are able to wield purest Force energy seen in decades. Remember that. Now you need to rest and sleep." Said Ondur.
At that They left Joe to rest. Before he fell asleep, Joe started to process all of what was said. There was a big difference between how he saw himself and how his Clan saw him. Maybe he wasn't perfect, but maybe, just maybe, Taldryan really did love him. As he started to fall into slumber, the Knight was filled with hope. Hope that one day he would be good enough.